The UFC’s lightweight class has long been considered the glamour division in the UFC. With arguably the deepest talent pool of all of the promotion’s weight classes, the 155-pound division consistently serves up high-quality bouts between world-class fighters.
The retirement of undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has given the division something of a reboot, with Charles Oliveira defeating Michael Chandler to claim the freshly-vacated title earlier this year.
Behind him stands a long queue of top-drawer contenders, all jostling for position in their quest to fight for, and win, the UFC’s coveted 155-pound strap.
Names like Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson are household names to long-standing MMA fans. But one name is emerging who perhaps isn’t quite as familiar to as many UFC watchers.
Former two-division KSW champion Mateusz Gamrot arrived in the UFC with seasoned European MMA writers claiming the then-undefeated Pole would be a force to be reckoned with in the UFC’s deepest weight class.
But Gamrot’s UFC debut didn’t go to plan as, in October 2020, he found himself on the wrong end of a split-decision verdict against Guram Kutateladze after a fight many observers thought he had done enough to win.
It meant Gamrot’s big selling point – his undefeated record – had evaporated after his very first UFC appearance. But anyone writing him off as an overhyped European prospect would be forced to reconsider their view as, in his next outing against teak-tough Scott Holtzman, Gamrot bounced back in style.
Gamrot handed Holtzman only the second knockout defeat of his career as “Gamer” registered his first octagon victory with an impressive display of punch power to erase the sting of his debut defeat.
Gamrot gets him outta there!
Legendary Polish Power seals the deal for @Gamer_MMA!#UFCVegas23 pic.twitter.com/9SxAXXWk8H
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) April 10, 2021
Then, last weekend, at UFC Vegas 31, Gamrot showed the other side of his game as he submitted longtime featherweight contender Jeremy Stephens with a Kimura after just 65 seconds to deliver a statement victory and put the rest of the lightweight division on notice.
Stephens is as tough and seasoned as they come, but Gamrot’s grappling skills shone through as he handed “Lil’ Heathen” his first submission defeat in 12 years and only the second submission loss on his record. To add further kudos to his display, it was also the fastest anybody had ever defeated Stephens in the American’s 48-fight career.
👏 TAKE A BOW 👏@gamer_mma taps out Jeremy Stephens in the first round! 👋#UFCVegas31 pic.twitter.com/G6SPhtIL34
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) July 18, 2021
With the division absolutely loaded with contenders and Gamrot not listed in the UFC’s top 15 at 155, there’s still plenty of road ahead for the former KSW featherweight and lightweight champion.
But in the three fights he’s had inside the octagon to date, “Gamer” has shown that he’s more than ready for ranked opposition in his next outing. And if he wins, it won’t be long before he’s knocking on the door of the top 10, or higher.
Gamrot said as much in an ebullient post-fight interview following his victory over Stephens last weekend.
“For me this is a big success because I train all my life very hard,” he told Paul Felder after the bout.
“I’m chasing my dream. I don’t go and fight to get money only. I want to be the champion in the future. I don’t know when. Maybe next year, maybe two years.
“Give me (my) next opponent. Step by step. The lightweight division is the toughest division in the UFC. It’s a lot of tough guys, but I am ready for every single guy in the top 15, really.
“Please, give me next, (someone in the) top 15. Sean Shelby, Dana White, I am ready for everybody in this division! Let’s go!”
He may not be the biggest name in the division right now, but Gamrot might just be the biggest emerging threat to the established names at 155 pounds. And, with Poland already producing UFC champions in Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jan Blachowicz, Gamrot has his sights set on joining his compatriots by adding a UFC belt to his collection.
Photo credit: KSW